At this stage of the domestic season there are regularly teams who have strung together a surprise run of early results. But as we edge closer to November, there seem to be a lot of sides, many who were written off before the campaign got underway, thriving in the upper reaches of the table.
Our first game of the weekend will see one of the up-and-comers going up against the league champions in the Premier League; there’s a similar kind of clash on at the same time in Spain. Sunday will showcase two crucial derby matches from English football and a fixture from Major League Soccer set to determine the winner of the Supporters’ Shield.
In addition, there are a couple of honorable mentions to sample during what’s poised to be another brilliant weekend of action. All kickoffs are in Eastern time, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the game!
Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace
Saturday, October 24, 10:00AM, USA Network and NBC Sports Live Extra
Leicester City’s superb form in 2015 shows no signs of slowing down and the manner in which they continue to come back from losing positions is a measure of the spirit instilled in the group by manager Claudio Ranieri. However, Crystal Palace are also enjoying a strong campaign and are specialists in picking up results away from home.
Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray
Sunday, October 25, Noon, Not scheduled for TV
The rivalry between these two giants of the Turkish game remains ferocious and fervent, meaning this encounter between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray is a must-watch for many. Both teams are locked on 17 points after eight games in the Turkish Super Lig and will be desperate to pick up three points in order to keep pace with leaders Besiktas.
West Ham United vs. Chelsea
Saturday, October 24, 10:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
One of the most intriguing teams in all of European football this season has been West Ham United. After a strong start to their season, facing an out-of-sync Chelsea is a brilliant chance to prove they are the real deal in the Premier League.
The Blues are definitely a vulnerable outfit at this juncture. Not only have they toiled on the domestic front, aside from being gifted a 2-0 victory against an awful Aston Villa team last weekend, Chelsea had to travel to Kiev in midweek for a draining Champions League clash. It’s going to take a big effort for them to take all three points on Saturday.
West Ham are on a high. They put in what was arguably their best performance of the campaign in a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace last time out and are in fourth place in the Premier League heading into the weekend. Their last win over their London rivals came in 2012 and although the Hammers’ home form has been erratic, they’ll fancy their chances.
Even though they’ve started the season in such fine style, West Ham can relax coming into this one. Jose Mourinho and his team need to buck their ideas up if they’re to get back up to the upper reaches of the table, meaning nothing less than a win will do for the Stamford Bridge outfit.
Celta de Vigo vs. Real Madrid
Saturday, October 24, 10:00AM, beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español and fuboTV
Although Real Madrid and Barcelona will most likely take control of the Spanish top flight eventually, it’s always refreshing to see a new name up there. Celta Vigo have taken plenty by surprise in the opening weeks of the La Liga season.
Indeed, as they get set to host Real Madrid at the Estadio de Balaidos on Saturday, Celta are joint-top of the table alongside the two juggernauts. Eduardo Berizzo’s team play the game at a relentless pace, spearheaded by the effervescent influence of their winger Nolito. Real Madrid will definitely finish this one knowing they’ve been in a game.
Manager Rafa Benitez has done a strong job of making his team tough to beat, though. It may not be the standard Real Madrid way, but the Spaniard has laid tough foundations, made defensive solidity a priority and with attacking players of the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon, always have a chance of winning games.
They’ll have to produce a quality display to take all three points here. Celta have relished the visit of the top sides, notching a 4-1 win over Barcelona earlier in the season. While Benitez’s altruistic principles may prevent a similar scoreline, there’s no doubt this one will be an absorbing watch.
Sunderland vs. Newcastle United
Sunday, October 25, 8:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
For the fourth time in as many seasons a new Sunderland manager will face Newcastle United in his second game in charge of the club. The fact that it’s Sam Allardyce now at the helm of the Stadium of Light, who formerly managed the Magpies, adds even more fuel to what is always a fiery occasion.
Sunderland are in desperate need of a victory. They find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table after nine matches, having failed to win a game so far. Allardyce felt his troops were hard done by in a loss to West Bromwich Albion last week, a match in which they were a lot more organized, but it’s imperative they show some attacking ambition in this one.
Newcastle have a lot of momentum behind them after securing their first win of the season last time out. That was an emphatic 6-2 thumping of Norwich City, in which we were treated to glimpse of what the attacking quartet of Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Moussa Sissoko and Ayoze Perez can potentially offer.
For years the Magpies had a massive mental edge over their local rivals, but it’s a dynamic which has swung drastically in recent fixtures, with Sunderland winning the last five in succession. A major uplift in performance levels will be needed here if they’re to make it six in a row.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Sunday, October 25, 10:05AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
The Manchester derby has grown into arguably the biggest local rivalry in the Premier League over the course of the last five seasons and there’s massive levels of excitement amongst the fanbase of each team as they gear up for this one.
That’s because both teams have a lot to be excited about. While United will have to conquer the fatigue which will have built up following a midweek trip to CSKA Moscow, they were superb in their previous Premier League game against Everton. It’s a blueprint you suspect Louis van Gaal will adhere to as he looks to overcome City on Sunday.
It’s a testament to the depth in City’s squad that even without David Silva and Sergio Aguero, they’re still a force to be reckoned with going forward. Wilfried Bony and Raheem Sterling dazzled in the 5-1 win over AFC Bournemouth last weekend, but it’s the mercurial playmaking skills of Kevin De Bruyne that United must be wary of shackling.
Arsenal play Everton on Saturday evening, meaning the Gunners could move to the top of league by the time this clash kicks off. Scaling the summit again would be a major incentive for these two massive rivals, not to mention the quest to secure regional bragging rights for the next few months.
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls
Sunday, October 25, 7:00PM, ESPN3.com
It’s the final weekend of regular season action in MLS and the race to secure the Supporters’ Shield will go down to the wire, with New York Red Bulls knowing a win over Chicago Fire would be enough to clinch the title.
If the New York outfit were to win the Shield, it’d be their second in three years. Back in 2013, they played Chicago on the final day of the campaign too and although they did fall behind early on, Thierry Henry galvanized the group to a 5-2 triumph. However, with the Red Bulls traveling to Toyota Park, things will be more difficult this time around.
Admittedly, it’s been a terrible season for Chicago, who are rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Still, this is a team which has historically raised their game for the visit of New York, with the league leaders having never won a game against the Fire on the road. So Frank Yallop and his side will be confident of finishing a dreary year by assuming the role of party poopers.
The only team who can rival the Red Bulls for the Supporters’ Shield is FC Dallas, who will kick off their final match of the regular season against San Jose Earthquakes later on in the day. They can take the gong should New York slip up, but a win for the Red Bulls, barring a mathematical miracle, would see them finish the league term as MLS’s top side.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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